World Literature started as early as years before Christ’s death. The earliest forms of world literature were oral and passed on by word of mouth. As time passed, forms of writing were developed and were pictographic. Writing was not invented for writing down literature but it was invented for more administrative and political purposes. The first literary work was a heroic narrative named Gilgamesh. This work nearly vanished from history when it was not translated to the alphabets than followed.
The Illiad and the Odyssey by the Greek writer Homer were also early works which played a role in the development of Greek civilization and literature. Comedies and tragedies also developed in celebration of the Greek God, Dionysius. In China, the Classic of Poetry, a lyric poetry collection is one of the earliest Chinese literary traditions. Ethical thought and traditions associated with Confucius were recorded in Analects by Confucius’ disciples. Years later, during the “Middle Period,” Chinese thought and letters were at its highest point, leading to the increase of importance of Chinese literature.
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The T’ang dynasty was another period where literature flourished, specifically poetry. India’s ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity led to a diverse oral and written literary tradition is constantly evolving. The Ramayana and Mahabharata are two popular Indian epics. During the reign of the Guptas, improvements were made in literature. The Roman Empire had its literary works in Latin and began with the translation of the Odyssey. The four Gospels and other documents were combined to form the New Testament which was translated from Greek to Latin.
In the West, national literature appeared in the vernacular.
Medieval Europe had varying styles of literature from each country. Beowulf was written at around 850AD and talked about the conflicts of Germanic and Scandinavian groups and the Roman Empire. The Divine Comedy and Decameron were also famous works in this time period. Japan’s Golden Age had a lot of literary works, most notably the Tale of Genji, the world’s first novel which was written in the early eleventh century. The Age of Enlightenment of Europe was a period of social change in Europe where the way of thinking of philosophers and writers changed. Literature was mainly for the elite social class during this time period.
Romanticism from the late eighteenth century to the nineteenth broke out in Europe and America. Virtues of nature were common topics for poetry as the middle class arose. In the twentieth century, modernization in literature developed. Western culture spread to Asia, Africa and South America, leading to a growth in literary works. Today, literature is everywhere. With the growth of computers and the internet, literature can spread easier than ever before. Novels and other literary works are made into movies to be enjoyed by everyone. World Literature is something that will never die as it keeps on growing.